Pride Day goes on in Salisbury with new venue, no proclamation
By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — The second gay pride festival held in downtown Salisbury went off without a hitch Saturday with drag queens strutting their stuff, advocates speaking their minds and friends embracing in hugs.
“It was basically incident free,” Salisbury Police Deputy Chief Steve Whitley said.
Police estimate about 1,500 people participated in the celebration held in the parking lot at 110 S. Lee St. Eight protesters showed up, down from nearly 200 last year.
Because Salisbury Pride was held in a private parking lot this year instead of a public street due to safety concerns, protestors had to remain around the perimeter of the event.
Whitley said two protesters who ventured into the festival were asked to leave and did so without resistance.
“Everyone has been well-behaved regardless of their opinion,” he said.
During last year’s festival a 74-year-old woman who came to support the event was given a ticket after she kissed a street preacher on the mouth.
The only arrest this year came when Salisbury Police cuffed Timothy Joseph Kirkley, 27, of Fairson Avenue, after they found lithium on him.
He was charged with felony possession of a controlled substance and conspiring to sell or deliver cocaine and received a $2,500 bond.
Whitley said Kirkley’s arrest during Salisbury Pride was “almost an anomaly.”
“I don’t think it had anything to do with the festival,” he said. “He was just passing through eyeballing the vendor tables and that got our attention.”
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Brandon Majors, chairman of Salisbury Pride, considers Saturday’s event a success despite fewer participants than last year, which drew a crowd of about 2,000.
“We just want to say thank you to the community for allowing us to be who we are and having our day of expression just as anyone else would,” he said.
Majors said some people had perceived the news of Salisbury Mayor Paul Woodson’s decision not to proclaim Saturday Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Day as a sign that the event would be canceled.
Earlier this month, Woodson told the Post he has a policy of not issuing proclamations for matters of controversy,
Mike Clawson, the founder of the Salisbury/Rowan chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), referenced Woodson’s decision during his speech.
“Let’s try to imagine a country where all elected officials celebrate and embrace the notion of diversity and inclusion, where laws are made to protect and honor that diversity, not malign and oppress it,” he said. “Whether it’s the federal employment nondiscrimination act or unfair adoption laws or the simple and humble extension of a Pride Day proclamation, can you imagine a country where the president, legislators and mayors are obligated and compelled by their own sense of what is right to treat all of their constituents fairly and justly.”
Reese Canyon of Winston Salem said it’s “pretty messed up” that Woodson opted not to make the proclamation.
“There are so many different people in society, you have to be more open-minded,” he said. “But it will happen in due time.”
Maddison McDaniel of Salisbury said the lack of a proclamation didn’t matter to her.
“I don’t think it makes a difference,” she said. “I love it so I’m going to come no matter what.”
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Jen Jones, communications director for Equality North Carolina, started a chant Saturday.
When she asked “What do we have?” audience members replied “We have the power.”
“I want you to know that I’ve been told for a long time that we need to fight the power,” she said. “We need to be the power.”
Jones said that power can be used to “clean house” by electing pro-equality candidates to office, end workplace discrimination and continue working to make the dream of equality a reality.
“Don’t stop believin’, Salisbury,” she said.
Megan Braun, a freshman at North Rowan High School and the reigning Elite Miss North Carolina, spoke out against the bullying of gay students, noting as many as one in three gay youth have attempted suicide.
“I am here as a voice for many people, especially for those people who are too afraid to stand on this stage and shed light on this situation,” she said. “I believe that in this present day … we are advancing so much in technology and medical breakthroughs, but not in the way that we think and look at other people.”
Braun said gay youth are oftentimes looked down upon, criticized and misunderstood.
“It is my hope and belief that we can all open our minds and our hearts and learn to accept those who may be different than we are,” she said.
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This is the second year Cassandra and Kent Smith of Salisbury have brought their sons Avery, 4, and Elliott, 7, to the Salisbury Pride event.
“I believe in equality so I just want to be supportive,” Cassandra said.
Cody, 11, and Megan, 9, tagged along with their father, David Grubb of Salisbury, to the event.
“I love it, and so do they,” he said.
Tia Battle and Mandy Kendall travel from Charlotte for Saturday’s event, the women laughed and chatted in their rainbow attire.
“I like any excuse to have fun,” Battle said.
Buddy Fisher, a preacher from Hickory, wasn’t necessarily having fun, but he said he felt it was important to spread the Gospel.
“Homosexuality is one of the sins that will keep people out of God’s heaven and cast them into hell,” he said. “We come out because we love them. … If we hated these people, I’d be at home in air conditioning eating potato chips, but it’s because we love them that we come out here to warn them.”
But Elena Miles said it was obvious Saturday’s Pride event wasn’t just for the gay community.
“If you look around you don’t see gays and lesbians, you see families,” she said.
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